X rays don’t cure blindness, Toronto doctor finds
"The X rays can make the blind to see in New York and San Francisco … they fail to restore sight here in Toronto." Toronto Evening Star, Dec 30., 1896
Following the discovery of X rays in 1895 by German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen, doctors tested every imaginable use for the exciting new electromagnetic radiation, including blasting rays into the eyes of blind Torontonians.
Let’s be clear: prolonged exposure to X rays is really dangerous. There’s a reason the radiologist leaves the room when the machine is switched on – simply: cancer.
X rays are classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization and doctors are supposed to limit patients’ exposure only to when it’s strictly necessary.
Without the benefit of that knowledge, Dr. Edmund E. King and his assistant Dr. G. S. Ryerson, an eye specialist, spent December 1896 exposing a test group of 20 blind people to X rays in the hope of restoring their sight.
"The subjects submitted to the test were of every colour of eye, it being thought that, perhaps, there was a difference of susceptibility to the X rays owing to the difference in the colour of the iris."
Naturally, nothing happened. “The patients displayed no ability to distinguish anything,” King and Ryerson reported after testing their “most improvised” apparatus.